EU humiliation: Italians flock to Serbian vaccination appointments as bloc lags behind

According to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, hundreds of Italian people are attempting to secure a vaccination appointment in Serbia after the country offered to vaccinate everyone and anyone who enters its territory, with or without a residency permit.

The move appears like a huge blow to the failures of the European Commission to ensure a smooth and fast vaccination strategy for member states, still lagging behind the UK, US and Israel among others.

Serbia, which is not an EU country, only counts seven million residents. This allowed the Belgrade government to offer all its remaining vaccinations to anyone who wishes to receive them.

The offer was made by the extra-European country when several EU member states suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Serbia, which has vaccinated about 26 percent of its population, the majority of its elderly and vulnerable, has approved both the Russian and the Chinese jabs.

In Italy, healthcare workers were told they would risk a suspension from their job if they refused to be inoculated after an increasing number of them were reported to have rejected jabs.

Now doctors and nurses who remain sceptical about the Oxford vaccine are inundating the Italian-Serbian authorities with requests for the Russian jab to be approved.

Last month, regional governors in Italy signed pre-approval contracts with the Russian vaccine producers in a bid to secure more jabs for their residents.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is yet to approve the Russian antidote, submitted for review in the bloc last month.

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In March, Italy’s southern Campania region’s governor signed an agreement to buy the Russian vaccine, in the hope that the deal will become effective once the shot’s use in Europe becomes authorised.

Vincenzo De Luca said: “We have signed the contract after weeks of negotiations pending approval of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Italian regulator (AIFA).”

Campania, which includes Naples, is one of Italy’s most populated regions, with some 5.8 million residents. It has been among the worst affected areas since the pandemic took hold in February last year, with over 320,000 confirmed cases.

Mr De Luca added: “Once we have vaccinated our citizens, we will offer the shots we don’t need to the rest of Italy.”

The Italian regions of Umbria, Lazio and Sardinia have also expressed their willingness to use or experiment using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

The Republic of San Marino, although on Italian soil but independent from Italy and outside of the EU, has already successfully inoculated its citizens with the Russian jab, sparking calls from League leader Matteo Salvini for Prime Minister Mario Draghi to follow suit.

At the EU level, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia have so far ordered the Russian vaccine.

Germany is now also open to using it, while France has kept a more cautious approach.

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